Release political prisoners and resume peace talks, rights group urges Duterte

As presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte prepares for the transition to assume the reins in July, Karapatan echoed the call to release all political prisoners and the resumption of the long-stalled peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“We challenge the Duterte presidency to build on the people’s votes that was mostly repudiation of everything that is the ‘tuwid na daan’. He can start by junking Oplan Bayanihan and similar counterinsurgency programs and take the road to genuine peace by addressing the roots of unpeace and the ongoing civil war through the negotiating table,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.  
Karapatan said farmers and indigenous people, especially from Mindanao, have been calling for the immediate pull-out of military troops from their communities. Operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have resulted to 318 killings and forcible evacuation of thousands under the Aquino administration, Palabay added.
“There are still more than 2,700 evacuees at the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur and at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran in Davao City. The pull-out of military troops in their communities and the disbandment of paramilitary groups can enable them to go home,” she said.
Palabay also urged the incoming Duterte administration to release all political prisoners, 543 of them as of March 2016, who are detained on false criminal charges. Of the 543, 18 are NDFP peace consultants, whose protection under the GPH-NDFP agreement on safety and immunity guarantees have been violated. “He should likewise address the justice system—tailored to favor the moneyed and those with powerful friends and connections—as a means to curb impunity.”   
There are 88 ailing and 48 elderly among the political prisoners, mostly poor peasants fighting for their land rights.
The Aquino regime, said Palabay, has wasted six years and the opportunity to address the long-standing causes of the armed conflict in the country. “We would like to see how the incoming Duterte administration can put his money where his mouth is.”  ###